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Scientists examining the Antikythera Mechanism -- which is not the title of a Dr. Who episode, a Robert Ludlum novel or the name of a new indie band -- have determined that it does some more things than they thought it did.
The mechanism dates back to the second century BC and was discovered in 1900. A complex set of gears with Greek zodiac and Egyptian months inscribed into two rings on its face, it was thought to be some form of timepiece and was later discovered to predict the locations of the sun, moon and the planets known at the time it was built.
But lately scientists studying it figured out that it would also indicate the apparent speed of the sun at different times of the year. The ancients thought the sun traveled around the Earth. Since it doesn't, since the orbit of the Earth around the sun is an ellipse instead of a perfect circle and since the Earth is tilted on its axis, the sun would seem to move faster or slower at different times. The Antikythera Mechanism can be set up to measure this different speed.
Since the mechanism essentially performs a mechanical function that produces different results based on the different inputs it may be given, scientists regard it as a kind of analog computer, the oldest of its kind in the world. It predates Charles Babbage's "Difference Engine" by some 1,900 years. The precision construction and complexity would not be matched again until the 1300s in Europe, when astronomical clocks that served similar functions were developed.
Devices such as the Antikythera Mechanism seem to have died out sometime after the era to which it dates. Theories explaining this are numerous, but many scientists point to the fact that some of the last-known devices similar to it bear Greek letters that transliterate as"Parathyro Anoigma." Although there is no exact translation for the terms in the ancient Koine Greek, the closest equivalent appears to be "Windows Vista."